Our story about Tom continues with his efforts to get his parents to talk about and eventually create End-of-Life plans—and the breakthroughs he’s achieved.
Last week I talked about ways to start the End-of-Life conversation and keep it going with your aging parents. It’s one thing to get them talking about death but after all the discussion, how do you inspire them to take action and create a comprehensive End-of-Life plan?
The first thing you need to do is understand what paperwork your parents have in place (if any) and what is missing. Often a parent will have an outdated Will or a Power of Attorney, but not have an Advance Health Directive or any type of plan for long-term healthcare.
Once my Dad was open to the discussion, I asked him five questions to consider:
“Dad, do you have a Will?”
Being a Type A man, my Dad already had a Will in place, but it was written nearly 20 years ago and had no provisions for catastrophic illnesses. I suggested that to be prepared for anything, his End-of-Life plan needed a tune-up.
We talked about what can happen if you get sick and don’t have an Advance Directive or Living Will in place. I told him, “I know a young guy who ended up on life support and his family had to make an extremely painful decision whether to keep him alive. I don’t want to put my daughter through that so I’m meeting with an estate attorney to have all the paperwork drawn up.”
As I mentioned last week, this is what spurred him into action. Dad didn’t want to lose control of his final days and also didn’t want to put us, his kids in a situation where we didn’t know what he wanted done.”
A few days later, we both met with an Estate Planning attorney together and had our Living Wills drawn up. I did it for the first time while Dad updated his Will to a Living Will. Some people don’t know that a good Living Will also serves as your Advance Directive.
Make sure your attorney includes what medical actions you want taken if you are no longer able to make decisions for yourself. It is a fairly easy process to review all the potential situations to ensure there are no gray areas.
If your parents do not have a Will, suggest he or she come with you to get your own Living Will drawn up. Perhaps this approach will help you as much as it did me.
“Do you have a Power of Attorney?”
After I asked Dad about his Will, I asked him about his Power of Attorney (POA). He said he had given his wife (my stepmother) Power of Attorney years ago. He also mentioned if they were both to pass away in a plane crash, (my Dad hates to fly) then I would be the executor of his Estate, which was good to know since he had not reminded me of that in 10 years.
If your parents do not have a POA in place but do have a Living Will, you may be able to find a POA form online and fill it out yourself. But your best option is to have a lawyer draw one up for you. If your parents are having trouble finding a lawyer with this legal expertise you can find a local Elder Law attorney through the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (http://www.naela.org)
“Do you have an Advance Healthcare Directive?”
If your parents are not interested in seeing an Estate Planning or Elder Law attorney, they can always fill out an Advance Healthcare Directive online
Be aware that Advance Directives vary by state. Although it’s easy to download the specific form for your state at the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s website, some forms are not comprehensive enough. If possible, I suggest you have your parents meet with an Estate Planning attorney and fill out an Advance Directive with a lawyer present.
“Do you have a record of all your online accounts and passwords, as well as a designated authorized user for your banking/investment/retirement accounts?”
When I asked my Dad this question, he said he had his account numbers and passwords typed up and laminated in his desk and his wife knew where they were.
Then I asked if he had named a secondary authorized user on all of his investment accounts and he bristled. I assured Dad I was not plotting to take over his accounts, but perhaps he should name his wife as a secondary user just in case of an emergency. If your parents haven’t yet tackled this question, I suggest these steps:
1. Have your parents write down all their usernames and passwords for their financial accounts, insurance accounts and online accounts (email, social media, retail, etc.) Ask them to store it in a safe place where it can be easily found.
2. Encourage your parents to visit their bank or brokerage house to fill out the appropriate paperwork to get a secondary authorized user on all accounts. This can usually be done in 30 minutes.
“Have you thought about Long-Term-Care Insurance?”
When I asked Dad about his plan for long-term healthcare he said his plan was to “drop dead doing yard work.” Later that night at dinner, he said his wife would take care of him, and she laughed and said she would “roll him out in the street” then “take up with the local tennis instructor.”
All humor aside, this is how 70% of all US families deal with the topic of long-term healthcare. If your parents do not have a spouse to take care of them and you are willing to do it, you can let your parent know you will always be there for them. Just know that one person can’t do it alone so if you have siblings, I suggest you form a plan.
The other factor to keep in mind is the number of elderly is projected to skyrocket in the coming years, which means there may be a shortage of caregivers. What can an elderly person do in this situation?
Even if my Dad wanted to purchase a long-term healthcare insurance policy, the reality is because of his age (70), he would have trouble finding one. If your parents are 70-years-old, you may not find a provider who will cover them. Some companies may offer some form of coverage, although premiums may be astronomical. Partial coverage or hybrid coverage plans may be available as well.
While you’re investigating, consider a long-term healthcare policy for yourself while you are still young and can find affordable coverage. Rates average $1,460 annually for someone who enrolls at age 45 but jumps to about $3,100 a year for a 65-year-old.